HST 344  -- Science, Technology and the Modern Corporation: The Automobile and American Life

            Class Meeting: MWF 11:15 a.m.-12:05 p.m., HM 125

            Instructor: John A. Heitmann

            Office: 435HM (x92803).

            Office Hours: 10:00-10:50 a.m. MWF or by appointment

            E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

            Blog page: http://www.automobileandamericanlife.blogspot.com


Texts: John Heitmann, The Automobile and American Life.
  Ben Hamper, Rivethead.
  Jason Vuic, The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History
  And materials on Isidore.


             Grades: The final grade for this course will be based on two hour exams, (60%), occasional quizzes, and final exam (30%). The grade scale is as follows: A  94 to 100; A-  90 to 93; B+  87-89; B 84-86; B-  80 - 83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73.  A similar pattern applies to lower grades.  Letter grades are assigned a mid-point numerical grade. Additionally, attendance can influence your final grade: if you miss more than 3 classes, one letter grade will be deducted from your grade; if you miss more than 6 classes, a two letter grade reduction will take place.  A good grade for this course is a C+.  Grade averages may be influenced by such factors as trends over the time of the course; for example, how you finish is far more important than how you start. Policies for exams strictly follows History Department Guidelines, and make-ups will only be offered with a valid, documented excuse.

            Attendance at lectures is crucial if you are to expect a good grade in the course, and I want you to be at every class if that is at all possible. On many occasions material presented is not covered in the readings, and so many of the ideas discussed central to the development of modern science are complex and often confusing. Your attitude and what you bring in to the classroom can make the difference between a mediocre offering and a most positive educational experience. 

            Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated and offenses will be punished accordingly. A first offense will result in a failing grade for the exam or paper in question; a second offense will result in a failing grade for the course.


Course Purpose:  It has been said that the automobile is the perfect technological symbol of American culture, a tangible expression of our quest to level space, time and class, and a reflection of our restless mobility, social and otherwise. In this course we will explore together the place of the automobile in American life, and how it transformed business, life on the farm and in the city, the nature and organization of work, leisure time, and the arts. This is a most complex transition that we will study, as the automobile transformed everyday life and the environment in which we operate.  It influenced the foods we eat; music we listen to; risks we take; places we visit; errands we run; emotions we feel; movies we watch; stress we endure; and, the air we breathe.


 The week of:

  Week 1 Automotive Pioneers
    Introduction; What our cars tell us about ourselves. The car in everyday life: the automobile age and its contradictions.
    Reading: Heitmann, Introduction, Chapter 1.
    Films: “Wild Wheels”; “Horatio’s Drive.”
  Week 2  Putting America on the RoadHenry Ford and the Model T
    Reading: Heitmann, Chapter 2. James Flink, "Three Stages of Automotive Consciousness" (Isidore).
    Film: “Automobile Parade;” “Gussle’s Day of Rest.”
  Week 3 Stealing Cars; The Rise of General Motors 
    Readings: Heitmann, pp. 54-63; Stuart W. Leslie, “Charles F. Kettering and the Copper-Cooled Engine.” (Isidore). Film: “Master Hands.” 
   Week 4 Advertising, Styling, Design and the Art of the Automobile
    Reading: Heitmann, pp. 64-71; Clarke, "Managing Design.”  (Isidore)
  Week 5 On the Road
    Reading: Heitmann, Chapter 4. Peter D. Norton, “Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street.” (Isidore].
    Films: “Grapes of Wrath;” “Route 66;"          “Detour;” ‘Keroauc: On the Road"
  Week 6 Religion, Courtship and Sex
    Readings: Heitmann, Chapter 5.
    Films: “Thelma and Louise”; “Motorcycle Diaries”
    Exam 1 
  Week 7 The Interwar Years: The Great Depression, Aerodynamics, and Cars of the Olympian Age
    Readings:  Heitmann, Chapter 6.
    Films: “The Crowd Roars;”  “Burn Em’Up Barnes.
  Week 8  World War II:  Detroit, the Arsenal of Democracy
    Readings:  Heitmann, Chapter 7
    Film: “Jitterbugs.”
  Week 9 The Post War Industry and Technological Suppression
    Readings: Heitmann, pp. 133-154: Robert C. Post. “Henry Kaiser, Troy Ruttman, and Madman Muntz: Three Originals.” (Isidoree).
    Film: “Tucker”
  Week 10 Chrome Dreams of the 1950s
    Jan & Dean and  the Beach Boys
    Readings: Heitmann, pp.154-163; Jeremy R. Kinney, “Racing on Runways: The Strategic Air Command and Sports Car Racing in the       1950s.” (Isidore)
    Film:  “American Graffiti”
    Exam 2 -- you will be tested on the Vuic  book at this time
  Week 11 The Rise of the American Muscle Car 
    Readings: Heitmann, pp.164-178.
    Films: “Goldfinger;” “Thunderball” “Bullitt.”
  Week 12 Oil Shock I: Japan, James Bond, and Mobile Lovemaking
    Readings: Heitmann, pp. 178-184; Gary T. Schwartz, “The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case.” (Isidore)
    Film: “Easy Rider;” Toby Halicki's "Gone in Sixty Seconds"
  Week 13 The Automobile World Upside Down, 1980s to the Present.
    Readings: Heitmann, pp.185-194, "The
    Filming of Bullit"(Isidore); Luscombe, Belinda. “The Tao of Vin Diesel: Millions of Fans are Inspride by his Oddest Role Yet: Philosopher.”    (Isidore). Film: “Fast and Furious; Tokyo Drift;”  "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant"
  Week 14  The Automobile Industry and the Future; Sum Up 
    Reading:  Heitmann, pp.194-206; Shladover, Steven E. “The Truth About Self-Driving Cars.” (Isidore). 
    Film:  “The Revenge of the Electric Car” 
  Week 15 Last Day of Classes
    Heitmann, Epilogue.
    FINAL EXAM On this exam you will be tested on the Ben Hamper Book.



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